Court clerk, former deputy face bribery charges

Tribune reporter

A Cook County court clerk and a former sheriff’s deputy have been charged with trying to shake down a motorist for $2,000 by promising to get him out of trouble for driving on a suspended license, authorities said Thursday.
Benjamin Maldonado Jr., 50, a Daley Center clerk since 2003, and Jaime Baez, 59, who worked for more than 30 years for the Cook County sheriff’s department before retiring last year and was workign at the Daley Center at the time, each have been charged with bribery and official misconduct, court records show.

The allegations stem from a December 2009 traffic stop in which the complainant, listed in the charges as “Witness B,” was cited for driving on a suspended license.

The man’s wife knew Baez and contacted him to see if he knew anyone who could help with the case. Baez suggested she call Maldonado, whom he described as a well-connected lawyer and nephew of a Cook County commissioner, neither of which was true, prosecutors said in a court filing.
In January 2010, Maldonado met with the man at a pancake house on the Northwest Side and agreed to get the case thrown out in Traffic Court for a fee of $2,000, prosecutors said.

Maldonado took $1,000 as a down payment, and said he had connections in the Secretary of State’s office and could “clear up” the man’s entire driving record. He also offered to help him with any future problems at City Hall stemming from an apartment building the man owned, according to prosecutors.
Baez took $500 as his “cut” for referring the case to Maldonado, according to the filing.

Later that month, the man met Maldonado at a coffee shop near Traffic Court and gave Maldonado the remaining $1,000 in cash. Maldonado told him not to worry about the case “because it had already been won,” according to prosecutors.

In fact, nobody appeared in court on the man’s behalf, and the judge ordered his bond forfeited, prosecutors said.
At a later court date, Maldonado appeared in court with the man, but had instructed him beforehand to refer to him only as his interpreter, not his attorney, according to prosecutors.

In April 2010, the man was arrested again for driving on a suspended license and wound up getting a lawyer to represent him, according to the filing.
Bond was set at $10,000 each for Maldonado and Baez at a hearing at the Leighton Criminal Court Building.

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